Robbery Offences (Tas)
The offence of robbery is governed by section 240 of the Criminal Code Act 1924. It is what is known as a composite offence, as it involves elements of both violence and property offending. A robbery occurs when violence or the threat of violence is used in order to steal. This article outlines the offence of robbery in Tasmania.
Definition of robbery
In Tasmania, a person is guilty of this offence if they steal a thing and, immediately, before or after, use or threaten to use violence to any person or property in order to obtain the thing or overcome resistance to its theft.
The offence of robbery is aggravated if, at the time of stealing, the person is in company with one or more other persons or causes bodily harm to a person.
A person who commits robbery while in possession of a firearm or any other dangerous or offensive weapon is guilty of armed robbery.
Penalty for robbery
In Tasmania, under section 389 of the Criminal Code Act, a general maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment applies to all criminal offences, unless the legislation states otherwise.
Tasmanian courts determine the appropriate penalty for different offences depending on the charge and the circumstances of the offending and the offender.
The maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment, therefore, applies to robbery, aggravated robbery and armed robbery. In practice, aggravated robbery and armed robbery will attract harsher penalties than robbery charges.
When a robbery matter is dealt with by a magistrate, the maximum penalty that applies is one year of imprisonment or a fine of 20 penalty units.
Robbery matters are sometimes finalised by a magistrate, either in the Magistrates Court (where the accused is an adult) or in the Children’s Court (where the accused is under 18).
Robbery matters may also be dealt with on indictment in the Supreme Court of Tasmania. This may occur when a magistrate considers a matter too serious to be dealt with in the summary jurisdiction or where the accused requests their right to a jury trial.
When a matter is to be finalised by the Supreme Court, it will first have to go through a number of preliminary mentions in front of a magistrate. The brief of evidence will need to be provided to the defence, and the matter will have to go through a committal proceeding, where a magistrate will assess whether there is enough evidence to support a finding of guilt in the Supreme Court. If the prosecution case is sufficiently strong, the matter will then be committed to the Supreme Court for finalisation by way of a sentencing hearing or a trial.
A person charged with a robbery offence in Tasmania may rely on a number of legal defences. Some of these are summarised below.
A person is not guilty of an offence if they were acting under duress when they committed the physical acts. Duress exists when a person does an act only because they are subjected to threats of death or serious harm if they do not comply with another person’s demands.
For the defence of duress to succeed, the accused must have been subjected to threats that were sufficiently serious that a person of reasonable courage would have yielded.
Violence was not used or threatened
A person is not guilty of robbery if they stole items but did not use or threaten violence in the process. In this situation, the accused could be found guilty of another offence such as stealing.
Accused owned the item stolen
A person is not guilty of robbery if they had a legitimate claim to the items that were taken. In order for the offence of robbery to be made out, something must have been stolen. However, a person is not guilty of stealing if they had an honest claim to the item taken.
If a person is charged with robbery, but the items taken belonged to the accused, they could rely on this as a defence to the charge of robbery. However, if violence was used, they could be found guilty of another offence, such as assault.
The Criminal Code Act contains a number of other related offences. These are summarised below.
Under section 240A of the Act, a person is guilty of carjacking if they:
- assault a person in order to take their motor vehicle and takes the vehicle without the owner’s consent; or
- take a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent while a person is driving the vehicle.
Section 240 makes it an offence to commit blackmail. Blackmail is defined as making unwarranted demands with menaces in order to gain for themselves or another person or with intent to cause loss to a person.
Demanding with menaces with intent to steal
Under section 242, a person is guilty of an offence if they demand a thing capable of being stolen with menaces or by force.
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